How to Test for Lyme Disease. Lyme disease is a tick-borne illness that requires immediate intervention to prevent complications such as joint pain, neuropathy and heart rhythm irregularities. If you have a tick bite, you should watch for symptoms or contact your doctor to do a test for Lyme disease. Depending on your medical condition, your doctor may choose to start prophylactic antibiotics for the disease while waiting for results of the bite. Read on to learn how to test for Lyme disease.
Expect to have a blood test to determine the presence of antibodies to Lyme disease. It takes from two to six weeks after exposure to Lyme disease for the antibodies to develop and appear in the blood.
Realize the first blood test will be either an ELISA (Enzyme Linked Immuno Sorbent Assay) or IFA (Immunofluorescence). Both of these tests are extremely sensitive to the antibodies present in Lyme disease.
Expect to have a follow-up blood test known as a Western immunoblot test if the ELISA or IFA show positive results. It is possible to get a false-positive result from ELISA and IFA. Confirmation is made when the results of the Western immunoblot test is also positive.
Plan to have a repeat blood test about three months after the initial negative ELISA, if the first blood draw was within the first two to six weeks after the bite. Sometimes, the first blood test will appear negative because the antibodies have not yet developed.
Prepare for the withdrawal of fluid from an infected joint for PCR (Polymerase chain reaction) testing. This is used to confirm the diagnosis of chronic Lyme arthritis. It detects the bacterial DNA identifying the presence of Lyme disease.
Check for signs of Lyme disease if your child has a tick bite. Initially, a rash recognized as a circular bull's eye rash is a distinct sign of Lyme disease. The need for blood tests will be determined by your child's pediatrician following a complete physical examination.
Realize if symptoms such as severe headaches appear following a tick bite, it may be necessary to test the spinal fluid for the presence of Lyme antibodies.